by Simon Reynolds
On first listen, Mirrored is a befuddling experience. A supergroup of veterans from hardcore punk and left-field rock, Battles have devised a sound that merges metal at its most clinical and chromium-shiny with the sort of frantic, fluttery orchestral soundtrack music composed by Michael Nyman. Seemingly plotted on graph paper, the twisting riffs, inverted drum patterns and origami-intricate song structures can seem flashy at times--like maybe these guys have spent too long poring over musicians’ technical mags and want to impress with their agility and precision. But the earnest virtuoso vibe is dispelled by the outfit’s joyous sense of absurdism. The album begins with Seven Dwarfs “off to work we go” style whistling and stand-out tune “Atlas” is one of several tracks featuring gloriously daft munchkin vocals, like singer Tyondai Braxton’s been huffing on a big bag of helium. Bemusement turns to amusement, then the sneaking suspicion that Mirrored might just be a work of lunatic genius.